THE PARABLE OF THE TREES 1: (Leadership Lessons From Abimelech)

I know this parable has been taught by different ministers, but I got my own slants while reading – and decided to share. Hopefully, someone would gain a thing or two.

So, truthfully, how many of us can turn down a prestigious leadership title or position?

Well, that singular ability can reveal whether you are/will be an excellent leader – or a poor one.

In other words, whether you are/will be a Tree or a Bramble.

I think the book of Judges, Kings and Chronicles are excellent books on leadership. While other Bible books mainly focus on one or two leader(s), these books give you a sequential array – so you are able to easily compare and contrast leadership styles within a certain period.

In the book of Judges, there is The Parable Of The Trees. Here’s the backstory:

We all know the story of Gideon – but we were not taught in Children Sunday School that he later had seventy sons from many wives. He also had another son from a girlfriend (concubine) in Shechem. His name was Abimelech.

Well, after Gideon died, Abimelech went to Shechem where his mother’s relatives were, and convinced them to make him ruler – since he was their ‘brother’. (Sounds familiar.)

The men agreed. (By the way, familiarity, friendship or kinship is not enough reason to put a person in leadership.)

Abimelech didn’t only convince these men to make him king, he killed all his seventy half-brothers on one stone. Only the youngest, Jotham, escaped.

On the day of Abimelech’s coronation, Jotham stood on a mountain and shouted out The Parable Of The Trees to the men of Shechem – and it is from there we get these very simple but profound leadership insights:

(1) Trees (Excellent Leaders) Know Their God-Given Positions – And Stay There.

In the parable, the trees desired a leader, and asked specific trees to “come and reign over” them. (Judges 9:7-15)

The olive tree replied, “Should I leave my…” (vs 9)
The fig tree replied, “Should I forsake my…” (vs 11)
The vine replied, “Should I leave my…” (vs 13) [All KJV]

There is a divinely ordained place designed for every leader to flourish and function. It is in this assigned spot they maximally produce and become a blessing.

Tree Leaders understand that – and stay there. They don’t abandon it for a title or position.

If you are an amazing blessing in the music ministry, don’t abandon your spot to become a full-time pastor just because you were convinced to.

If you have been called into children’s ministry, don’t forsake the children to be the head of the women’s committee – a role you know will entail quitting your primary purpose.

No matter how seemingly prestigious the title or the perks might seem, Trees stay in their spots.

(2) Tree Leaders Are Continuously Productive

The olive tree said, “Should I cease…?” (NKJV)
The Living Bible reads, “Should I quit producing?”
The Good News says, “…Stop producing…”

The language of the trees reveal that their lives were in constant and consistent production mode. They were not one-season, one-cycle producers.

Even when a harvest or fruit-bearing season is over and trees go into a seemingly unproductive mode, all of nature knows they are actually being renewed in preparation for the next fruit-bearing season.

Same for Tree leaders: They keep producing in their spots. Even when they seemingly stop producing, it is for renewal – and not to pursue personal ambition.

(3) Tree Leaders Are a Blessing – And They Know It

The olive tree asked, “…leave my oil which honors God and man…?”
The fig tree: “…forsake my sweetness and my good fruit…?”
The vine said: “…leave my wine which cheers God and man…?”

Tree leaders are not falsely immodest about their strengths – or their impact. They know their sweet zones. They know they have been gifted in certain areas that bring delight to God and man – and they rejoice in it.

Because of this knowledge, they would rather remain in their spot and flourish, than go somewhere else to lead – and struggle.

(4) Tree Leaders Are Focused – And Unmoved By Human Adulation or Pressure

All the trees gathered together to ask the olive, fig and vine trees to rule over them.

First, can you imagine how flattered the trees would have been to hear a collective, “Come and reign over us”?

Can you also imagine the pressure to succumb to a multitude on a mission? Turning down an individual is one thing; turning down a whole group is another.

Do you know the laser focus, intense willpower – and deep understanding of purpose and placement – it would have required to turn down their offer?

No wonder, when the people wanted to make Jesus king by force, he departed from them to go to a mountain alone (John 6:15). He was human and he felt the pressure. His place was on the cross, not on an earthly throne – and he fully understood that flattery and group pressure can push/force you out of your assigned spot. So he got out of there.

Focus on your purpose makes you immune to pressure – or flattery.

(5) Tree Leaders Put Things In Clear, Bottom-Line Perspective.

The olive, vine and fig trees cut through the pressure and adulation to the core of the invitation.

The trees said, “Should I leave…to be promoted over trees?” (KJV)
The NKJV reads, “To go – and sway over trees?”
The Amplified says, “To go – and wave over trees?”
The Living Bible: “Just to lift my head above other trees?”

You have been invited to take on a leadership position, right? Good. What exactly are you being required to do as a leader?

Take away the title, the privilege of sitting at a table with big names, your bag (or Bible) being carried and the hero-worship of people.

Why, exactly, are you leaving your spot?

Why, exactly, are you leaving your place of fruitfulness just to acquire a title that seemingly elevates you – but really saps you dry and stops you from functioning as a blessing where you are planted?

The Message Translation puts it succinctly and beautifully, “…to be demoted to waving over trees?”

Any title or position that takes you out of your God-ordained spot is actually a demotion – not a promotion.

Tree leaders cut to the nitty-gritty of it, ask the hard questions – and uncover the deception in the seduction to leave their God-given zones.

(Next post: Bramble Leadership)

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  1. Lisa Blair says:

    I’m pondering a decision, and I really appreciate the many insights, especially, “Why, exactly, are you leaving your place of fruitfulness just to acquire a title that seemingly elevates you – but really saps you dry and stops you from functioning as a blessing where you are planted? Any title or position that takes you out of your God-ordained spot is actually a demotion – not a promotion.”

    1. Debby Osa says:

      Thank you, Lisa – and I pray God’s wisdom for you.

  2. Debby, I love this. So helpful and puts in perspective how important it is to stay where God puts us.

    1. lisamarcelina says:

      These are very good questions to ask when deciding to take or move to a leadership role. Thanks for sharing.

      1. Debby Osa says:

        You are welcome – and thank you for reading.

    2. Debby Osa says:

      Yes, it is. Thank you, Deborah.

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